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#BookBeginnings The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

Today we’re looking forward to starting the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challenge, The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:   Two young girls, Calli and her friend Petra, go missing in the night. Now their families struggle to find out what happened to them.

This is Heather Gudenkauf’s debut novel.

First Sentence of the Prologue:

Louis and I see you nearly at the same time.

The first person narrator here is Antonia, Calli’s mother. Louis is a deputy sheriff who plays a key role.

First Sentence of Chapter One, Calli:

Calli stirred in her bed. The heat of a steamy, Iowa August morning lay thick in her room, hanging sodden and heavy about her.

Discussion:

So far the suspense is palpable. I definitely want to know what is going on.

Throughout the book, each chapter is named for the person who narrates it. Calli’s chapters are told in the third person, perhaps because she doesn’t speak. Calli is what is called selectively mute.

The video trailer is pretty intense, too.

What do you think?

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of Terry McMillan’s A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Let’s take a look at  A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan from a writer’s perspective (the discussion for the novel began here.)

This post contains spoilers.

 

A Day Late and a Dollar Short*


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  This novel is a peek into the dynamics of a complex and frankly dysfunctional family.

You might recognize some of Terry McMillan’s other novels, such as Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Strengths of A Day Late and a Dollar Short:

Each chapter of the novel is narrated from the first person point of view by one of several different members of the Price family. Moving from character to character might be confusing in some hands, but Terry McMillan is adept at it. You can identify the voice of the featured family member readily. With an an amazing ear, she plays with slang, dialect, rhythm, and sentence length to give each character a memorable voice. They talk, think and act like a real, recognizable people.

Characters’ Voices

How does the author change the voice of each character to make them unique? Let’s look at some actual examples.

Matriarch of the family,  Viola Price

Viola is a strong-willed, opinionated  woman and her words reflect that. They gush onto the page in stream of consciousness rush, with a few expletives strewn in like boulders to make her points.

“I have tried my damnedest to like George, be nice, act civilized toward him, but I can’t pretend no more… Janelle brag that he got over six hundred people working under him. I ain’t impressed in the least.

Her estranged husband, Cecil Price

Cecil has a bit of a Texarkana twang.  He says “ain’t,” “thank” instead of think, and “everythang” instead of everything. (This must have been a nightmare for the copy editor.)

I shoulda stayed a little longer. I know I shoulda… Seemed like she wanted me to hurry up and leave. At least that’s my thanking on it. She said no to everythang I asked her.

Their oldest daughter, Paris

Single mom Paris supports her son with her catering business. Her voice is as clean and sophisticated as she can make it.

I also heard I’m a perfectionist. Which I will admit to:  and proud of it. They make it sound like a dirty word. All I have to say is:  don’t hate me because I’m organized.

Their second daughter, Charlotte

Charlotte was born on her mother’s birthday and sounds the most like Viola.

It’s times like this when I wish I hadda went to college. Hell, if I could ever find the time, I’d like to go back to school:  at least take a few classes. Not necessarily for no degree.

Their third daughter, Janelle

Janelle is educated, although a bit lost in her own little world.

Of the three girls in my family, I’m the smallest. I should say, the most fit. I’m the only one who works out,…I’ve been trying to persuade Mama and my sisters — particularly Charlotte’s big butt — to at least try walking. But they’re too lazy.

Their son, Lewis

Lewis had a lot of potential when he was young, but gets sidetracked into a life of crime. For the most part, Lewis speaks in short sentences.

I got a job. But it’s on hold. I’m on disability right now. Don’t nobody in my family believe I got rheumatoid arthritis.

Once you see the patterns, it is easy to recognize which character is speaking in each chapter without them actually being named. This ability is not easy to achieve, and Terry McMillan deserves recognition for her ability to carry it off.

 

Public domain photo via Visualhunt.com

Weaknesses of A Day Late and a Dollar Short:

It isn’t a big weakness, but Terry McMillan’s novel comes across at times as a cautionary tale. Everything that can befall a family shows up in the novel at some point:  illness, death, drug addiction, alcohol problems, teen pregnancy, incest, adultery, characters sent to jail, etc. It’s as if McMillan wants you to see how things can go wrong if you make certain choices, and how to avoid those in your own life. That isn’t necessarily a bad goal, but can get wearing over time without a bit of levity or hopefulness. Fortunately, things do perk up at the end as the family members start to turn their lives around.

Discussion

I have to admit that I would never have opened this book if it hadn’t been part of The Bestseller Code 100 challenge. Mostly I was put off by the title, which seemed old-fashioned and a bit lame. After I started reading, however, I was once again reminded how first impressions can be so wrong.  Now I can’t wait to read more of McMillan’s novels.

Why did the computer choose this book as one of the best of the bestsellers? Possibly because there is a strong theme of family and relationships, which was one of the themes mentioned as being important. Also, I’ve noticed many of the novels it selected have been narrated from more than one perspective, or have different voices in different chapters. This one definitely fits that criteria.

Regardless of why the computer chose it,  writers will find it an awesome example of how to develop characterization and realistic dialogue. It is a title well worth examining.

Have you read A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan? What drew you to it? Did you like the title?

 

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 73. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (2009) – Discussion begins November 13, 2017
Genre:  Suspense

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan

A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  Author Terry McMillan is known for her strong female characters, specifically African American women in professional and/or matriarchal roles.  If you’ve not read any of her books, I’m willing to bet you are still familiar with them, as many have been made into big-screen or made-for-television movies – Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Disappearing Acts, and A Day Late and a Dollar Short.

This post does contain spoilers.

 

A Day Late and a Dollar Short*


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

Strong Matriarchal Voice

As Roberta noted in #BookBeginnings, the first voice we hear is matriarch Viola Price, who quickly establishes herself as a woman with strong opinions and the will to voice them. She doesn’t takes guff from anyone and that includes her estranged husband and her four children. Maybe it’s no accident that none of her children live near her or that her husband has moved out and found a new, younger, less strident woman to live with. Vi is about as subtle as a steamroller.

Even though I didn’t know any African American women when I was growing up, I instantly recognized the voices of a couple of my aunts.  The language Viola uses and her patterns of speech might be different, but her fearless and frank admonitions and advice to her children and extended family are similar to those I heard in my childhood from certain aunts.  If they thought you needed a verbal slap upside the head, they didn’t hesitate to give it to you, whether you had asked for it or not.  Don’t we all have at least one relative that calls it like it is?  I believe this is why McMillan’s characterization of Viola rings so true.  And even though Viola dies partway through the book, her presence is still a force to be reckoned with throughout the entire book.

Family Tree

McMillan provides Viola and Cecil Price’s family tree in the print copy of the books (there was not one in the Kindle version, much to my dismay) and, at the beginning, I  definitely referred to this tree often to keep track of all the characters.  Each chapter is presented from the viewpoint of another character, and they are all vivid, memorable, and believable.  Because of this, it doesn’t take long before you recognize each voice right from the first few sentences of each new chapter.

The family tree is our first clue to just how dysfunctional the Price family is.  Almost every member of the family has had multiple marriages and children from those multiple marriages.  As the book proceeds, the Price family members experience a seemingly unending series of crises – teen pregnancies, an abusive step-father, substance abuse, jail sentences, infidelity – and that’s just in the first few chapters!  Each family member does their best to hide these crises from their parents and siblings, presenting the “all is great” facade to the world.  Viola does her best to hold the splintering family together, but she knows she may not survive her next asthma attack.

For a while I found it difficult to believe that so much could happen to one family in such a short time, but then I lost myself in the characters and ceased caring if it was believable or not.  I only wanted to know what would happen next and if they would all come through the flames intact.

Letters from Viola

Even though Viola dies partway through the book, she remains a vital part of the story. I especially liked how McMillan brought Vi’s voice back in the last chapter.  The entire family gathers together at Thanksgiving and they read aloud the letters Vi wrote to her husband and children before her death.  It was an effective way to bring about a reconciliation.  And though the ending might be too neatly wrapped up, as a reader I appreciated the feel-good ending.  I wanted the Price family to have their kumbaya moment and McMillan came through.

I listed in my opening paragraph all the McMillan novels that have been made into movies.  Amazingly enough, I’ve never seen any of those movies, nor read any of her books.  I will be adding all of them to my “must see” and “must read” lists.  That’s how much I enjoyed A Day Late and a Dollar Short.  How about you?  Did you enjoy reading about Viola Price and her family?

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 73. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (2009) – Discussion begins November 13, 2017
Genre:  Suspense

#BestsellerCode100: Number 74. A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

A Day Late and a Dollar Short*


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: A peek into the dynamics of a complex and frankly dysfunctional family.

You might recognize some of Terry McMillan’s other novels, such as Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Have you read A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 73. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (2009) – Discussion begins November 13, 2017
Genre:  Suspense

#BookBeginnings A Day Late and A Dollar Short by Terry McMillan

Today we’re starting a book with an intriguing title for The Bestseller Code 100 challenge:  A Day Late and A Dollar Short by Terry McMillan. It’s just in time for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

A Day Late and a Dollar Short*


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  A peek into the dynamics of a complex and frankly dysfunctional family.

You might recognize some of Terry McMillan’s other novels, such as Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

First Sentence:

Can’t nobody tell me nothing I don’t already know.

Discussion:

What a strong voice! You have to hear the next paragraph:

Which is exactly how I ended up in this damn hospital:  worrying about kids. I don’t even want to think about Cecil right now, because it might just bring on another attack. He’s a bad habit I’ve had for thirty-eight years, which would make him my husband, Between him and these kids, I’m worn out. It’s a miracle I can breathe at all.

Can’t you just hear this character talking in your head? I’m looking forward to see what more she has to offer.

The front matter shows a family tree, which I think I’m going to need to keep everyone straight. Looks like a lot of the people in the family have been married more than once, reflections of the realism of complicated modern families.

What do you think? Would you keep reading? Have you read any of Terry McMillan’s books?

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.

This post does contain spoilers.

 

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Man Booker Prize Winner

The White Tiger won the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2008.  I wasn’t familiar with this prize, so I did a little research.  Originally, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction was awarded each year for the best original novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom, with the intent being to recognize authors and encourage the widest possible readership, thus boosting book sales for the winner.  The prize is awarded to the book rather than the author and in 2014 the scope was widened to include any novel published in the English language. The prize money awarded to Man Booker winners is one of the largest amounts in the world of literary prizes.

Social Commentary

Adiga’s debut novel is a scathing social commentary on life in India in the beginning years of this century.  As Roberta noted in her Writer’s Review, Halwai, the main character, continually refers to the Darkness as a way to illustrate the demeaning and demoralizing existence of most Indians.  Throughout the book, Halwai strives to escape the Darkness and live in the Light, a goal he achieved and which is represented by the multiple chandeliers he has in his apartment in Bangalore.

There were many references to the caste system of India throughout The White Tiger, and since I didn’t know much about the caste system, I did some more research.  The caste system has held Indians within their rigid heirarchical groups for over 3000 years, preventing upward mobility, economic opportunities, and co-mingling of the groups.  India banned caste-based discrimination in their constitution, enacted quotas for hiring in 1950, and expanded those quotas to encompass more caste levels in 1989.  With the technology boom of the early 2000s resulting in the rise of call centers servicing American companies (most based in and around Bangalore), the caste system has become less adhered to by the younger generations.  It is still followed in the more rural areas of India and, as Adiga illustrates so well in The White Tiger, most people in the supposedly more progressive areas of the country, i.e., the large cities, still cling to the beliefs that the castes really do dictate intelligence level, abilities, and career paths, and discrimination on a personal level is still the norm.

The Orphan Master’s Son

As I read The White Tiger, I was continually reminded of one of our earlier novels, The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson (another prize winning book).  I was struck by the similarities of the two main characters, Halwai and Pak Jun Do, and also by the similarities of Indian and Korean society.  Both Halwai and Pak Jun Do were nameless as infants and assigned names later in life.  “Jun Do” is the English equivalent to “John Doe” and Pak was a name from the list of 114 Grand Martyrs of the Revolution used for orphaned boys. Hulwai is called “Munna,” which means “boy,” until he goes to school, at which time his teacher calls him Balram Halwai.  Halwai is his caste level and it means “sweet-maker.”

In both books the authors make clear that there is no chance for the lower classes to achieve upward mobility or economic stability.  The masses are nothing more than glorified slaves and their continued existence is dictated solely by the whims of those above them, either the higher caste levels in India (the landlords, the wealthy) or by the government officials (both military and non-military) in Korea.  Most never think to question any order given by someone in a position of authority, never think to question their place in the societal hierarchy, let alone dare to think of being free;  economical freedom, intellectual freedom, social freedom – all are equally unattainable and therefore dangerous to consider.  If you step out of line, not only will you suffer potentially lethal consequences, but so will your immediate and quite possibly your extended family members. This makes it all the more astounding that both Halwai and Pak Jun Do do eventually attain economic success (Halwai) and/or freedom of thought and action (Pak Jun Do), although through unlawful means and at great personal costs.

Self-Examination

Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger is a disturbing read, as it is meant to be.  This is not a lighthearted romp, nor is Halwai a lovable rapscallion. As Adiga told in an interview with The GuardianThe White Tiger highlights inequities and indignities of Indian culture and spotlights the dark underbelly of India’s “economic miracle.”

“At a time when India is going through great changes and, with China, is likely to inherit the world from the west, it is important that writers like me try to highlight the brutal injustices of society. That’s what writers like Flaubert, Balzac and Dickens did in the 19th century and, as a result, England and France are better societies. That’s what I’m trying to do – it’s not an attack on the country, it’s about the greater process of self-examination.”

I certainly didn’t enjoy reading The White Tiger, but it did cause me think about some things I had not considered before.  It led me to research the Man Booker Prize, the caste system, and the author himself.  It brought back memories of The Orphan Master’s Son, another disturbing and thought-provoking book.  If nothing else, this 100 Bestsellers Reading Challenge is stretching my brain and my horizons, and those are good things.

What about you?  Did you find The White Tiger to be a stretch from you normal reading choices?  Did you think it was a worthwhile read?

 

 

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 74. A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan (2000)- Discussion begins October 30, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of The White Tiger

Let’s take a look at The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

 

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Balram Halwai writes about his rags to riches story as he leaves behind his impoverished Indian village to establish his own taxi business.

Note:  Although Aravind Adiga was only 33 when he published this debut novel, it won the Man Booker Prize in 2008.

Genre

This novel is an excellent example of picaresque fiction. 

A picaresque novel features a main character who is from a low social class and a bit of a rogue (the name comes from the Spanish word picaro for rogue or rascal). He gets by with his wits and often skirts the law or social conventions to achieve his goals. This novel follows the picaresque tradition because it is told in first person, and features plain, realistic language with elements of satire and dark comedy.

The White Tiger is also an epistolary novel. The text is a long letter written by the main character over a series of evenings.

Characters

Balram Halwai is the roguish main character. He grew up in a poor rural village in India. Using his cunning, he learns to drive and becomes a driver/servant for Mr. Ashok and his wife, Pinky Madam in Delhi. Although at first he follows the law, he doesn’t mind breaking with social conventions. For example, he refuses to send a portion of his wages back to his family as expected. Later we learn he is willing to break the law, too.

One feature of a picaresque novel is that the main character doesn’t have much of a character arc. Once a rogue, always a rogue. In this case Halwai’s circumstances change, but he still bends the rules as he sees fit.

Because it is written from Halwai’s perspective, women are kept in the background. Other than his employer’s wife, whom he calls Pinky Madam, the majority of female characters are either family members (who Halwai sees as impeding his progress), or prostitutes. Pinky Madam ends up leaving her husband and thus disappears from the story as well.

Setting

Setting is incredibly important in this novel. Each place Halawi lives in reflects a change in his social status. In general, he moves in a southerly direction, from the village of Laxmangarh in north India, to Delhi in the middle, and finally Bangalore in the south.

To Halwai, the rural village of his birth represents the “Darkness” of hopelessness, poverty, illness, and death. Delhi becomes a place of both “Darkness” and “Light,” as he learns about and tries out new roles. He ends up in Bangalore, where he starts a business and becomes one of the exploiters rather than one of the exploited.  He sees himself as someone “in the Light.”

 

white tiger
Public domain photo via Visualhunt.com

Symbolism/Themes

From the white tiger of the title to the Black Fort above his village, the story is full of symbols. Many are prominent during turning points in the main character’s life.

Near the village where Halwai grew up, there is a structure called the “Black Fort.” As a child he is drawn to it, but is also frightened of it. His mother had been fascinated by it as well,  prior to her death. Once he has the driving job,  Halwai is finally  brave enough to climb into the fort. Looking down upon his village he experiences a step out of the “Darkness.”

Halwai often refers to people as animals. In the beginning, those that exploit the villagers are given animals names. The Stork controls the river, the Wild Boar takes taxes for the agricultural lands, the Raven harasses the goatherds, and the Buffalo extorts those who used the roads (Halwai also resents the water buffalo which provided milk and income for his family).  He calls Mr. Ashok’s brother “Mongoose.”

In Delhi, Halwai calls the other working people the “Rooster Coop” because they fight with one another rather than helping each other out. Like roosters, they peck others to keep them in their place. Halwai refuses to participate and distances himself from them.

Throughout the book, Halwai envisions himself as a white tiger, which represents a rare sort of animal. When he sees a white tiger in a cage at the zoo, he decides he must break free of his life of servitude.

Discussion

Although clever in its construction, this novel leaves me flat.

The first problem is the lack of a character arc. When his circumstances change, Halwai doesn’t become a better person. Instead he becomes slicker and better at manipulating others. You want to root for him, but he is not likeable. Rarely do I want to rewrite a novel, but in this case I wish the main character had simply found a clever way to steal the money. Not as brutal an impact, but perhaps more reasonable for a human being who up to that point seemed like he obeyed the law?

The epistolary format also doesn’t help. Writing the story as a letter in the first person limits how much the reader can see of a character’s world. For example, when he and his brother take their dying father to a hospital and there’s no doctor (because of corruption), we don’t get a clear picture of the emotional impact this has before Halwai is off onto another topic.

Although it is probably peevish on my part, including dialogue in the text that is supposed to be a letter seems jarring and artificial. Who writes dialogue in a letter, even a fake one? Yes, it wouldn’t have worked any other way, but it still annoyed me.

For many, The White Tiger has been highly acclaimed. People have applauded its originality and fresh voice, as well as its setting. It is fast paced and filled with dark humor.  In a lot of ways this novel is as rare as the animal in the title.

Have you read The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 74. A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan (2000)- Discussion begins October 30, 2017

Analysis of the First 25 Bestsellers from the #BestsellerCode100 Challenge

Can you believe we have been reading novels for The Bestseller Code 100 Challenge for nearly a year now? We started our first book on November 7, 2016 and we have read 25 bestselling novels so far.

The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers


Let’s take a look at a few summary statistics for the first twenty-five books. This analysis was prepared by both Karen and Roberta.

Gender of Author

Does the gender of the author influence whether a book becomes a bestseller or not?  If we count J. K. Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling as written as a female, then the split is about even with 14 males and 11 females. If we count The Cuckoo’s Calling as written by a male, Robert Galbraith, then it would be 15 males and 10 females.

It will be interesting to see how this ratio changes as we read more of the list.

 

 

Gender of Characters

Can we look to the gender of the author and predict the gender of the main characters in his/her book?  Of the 25 books we’ve read, half of the authors (12 total) wrote main characters that were the same gender as themselves:

  • 7 male authors with only male main character(s)
  • 5 female authors with only female main character(s)

Conversely, only 2 authors wrote main characters of the opposite gender:

  • 1 male author with a female main character
  • 1 female author with a male main character (Rowling/Galbraith)

Several authors (11) wrote books with multiple main characters of both genders:

  • 7 male authors with multiple main characters of both genders
  • 4 female authors with multiple main characters of both genders

Can we conclude that authors prefer to write main characters that match their own gender, writing what they know?  It will be interesting to track this statistic as we read through the remainder of the list.

Previous Experience of Author

One might expect that more experienced authors would be more likely to write a bestseller.  Thus, a majority of the titles on the list should come from authors who have published more than five novels. Surprisingly, six of the twenty-five novels were the author’s first or debut novel. Nine were from authors who had published only two to five novels. Once again, J.K. Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling is problematic. We counted her as an experienced author, even though Robert Galbraith was supposedly a debut author. Also, Stieg Larson’s book was the third of a trilogy, but it was written before he published the first. We included him in the “few” category.

Apparently experience is not a primary factor, at least so far. If it were, we’d expect that a vast majority of the books would be by authors with more than five novels.

 

Genre Versus Literary

Assigning a novel to a genre is becoming more and more tricky as many novels cross boundaries. We considered four of the titles to be literary fiction. Of the titles that fit the genre category, eight of the titles could be considered to be mystery/suspense/thriller, making it the most popular genre so far.

 

 

Education of Authors

Do bestselling authors all have a degree in English or creative writing? Although most of the authors had degrees in the liberal arts side of the college, not all studied writing. In fact, five of the twenty-five had degrees in writing, plus another four with degrees or careers in journalism. That is roughly 36%.

Surprisingly, 12% studied law, and another 12% were actors or filmmakers before taking up writing novels. Of those with no background in the arts, one was a doctor, one had psychology training, and one worked as a flight attendant.

 

 

Country of Author

Because the bestsellers were from The New York Times list, it is not surprising that the vast majority (76%) of the authors were Americans.

 

Graphics provided by Pictochart.

Discussion

After having read the 25 bestselling novels for this challenge, we need to ask ourselves if it has been worthwhile. Here are some of our insights.

At the beginning we expected that we would enjoy reading most of the books because they are popular bestsellers. We are both book lovers and readers, so it seemed to be a reasonable expectation. We were both surprised to learn how many of the books we did not enjoy. Although our tastes are similar, we have not always agreed on how well we liked a certain novel, either. We learned that there is more to enjoying a bestseller than simply good writing or an interesting plot, and that humans need stories that resonate with us as individuals. We found out that being able to reach a broad audience in a meaningful way is quite an art.

Although we have had to hold our noses and keep reading at times, by persevering we have learned more about literature and writing. We have been exposed to a diversity of formats and styles. We’ve read epistolary novels, bestiaries, and novels written from the perspective of a dog. We’ve also become a bit more literary. Now when someone mentions World War Z in a conversation, we can give an informed opinion, and not from watching the movie.

We’ve also stepped out of our comfort zones, reading novels in genres we don’t usually consider when looking for something to read.  The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest was a far cry from Karen’s first love, historical fiction, yet she was enthralled with the characters and quickly read the entire trilogy.  And The Mountains Echoed was definitely not a detective novel or murder mystery, but Roberta found it breathtaking.  By reading books in genres outside of our norm, we’ve both discovered some new favorite authors.

What about you? What nuggets have you discovered from reading The Bestseller Code 100 list?

All in all, we are looking forward to discovering the next twenty-five bestsellers. We hope you decide to read them with us.

#BookBeginnings Convenient Suspect by Tammy Mal

Today we have a new nonfiction book, Tammy Mal’s Convenient Suspect: A Double Murder, a Flawed Investigation, and the Railroading of an Innocent Woman, for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

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Convenient Suspect: A Double Murder, a Flawed Investigation, and the Railroading of an Innocent Woman* by Tammy Mal

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

Convenient Suspect is a nonfiction book I’m reading as research for a novel.

In December of 1994, someone killed a young woman named Joann Katrinak and her baby boy. Three years later another mother was arrested, one who had never met the victims. The suspect, Patricia Rorrer, was quickly convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Tammy Mal is a journalist who reviewed the evidence and interviewed the people involved in the case.

First Sentence of Prologue:

Sudden and violent death is always tragic, but the kidnapping and murder of a young mother, Joann Katrinak, and her infant son, Alex, only ten days before Christmas 1994, shook the small town of Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, to its core.

First Sentence of Chapter One

Thursday, December 15, 1994, had been a quiet day at he the Leigh County Communications Center, and the mood inside the small, gray building was one of festive anxiety.

 

Discussion:

Tammy Mal explains in the prologue that when she started the book she thought she would write about how a young woman came to commit a horrible crime. As she dug into the details, however, she began to question whether the case was as clear cut as it had been portrayed.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but so far this book has moved right along.

Does Convenient Suspect sound like a book you might read? How often do you read nonfiction?

Quick Giveaway of A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan

I accidentally ended up with two paperback copies of  A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan for The Bestseller Code 100 Challenge. Our discussion for the book is supposed to start October 30, 2017, so let’s have a quick giveaway for the extra copy.

Giveaway

If you are participating in our reading challenge and would like a chance to receive a paperback copy of A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan, please leave a comment on this blog post with a valid e-mail address. Let’s make the deadline by 12:00 noon Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday 19, 2017. That will give the postal service time to deliver before the challenge discussion starts. I will randomly select a winner if more than one person enters. Let’s limit it to U.S. residents this time.

Edit:  This giveaway is now closed.

You can comment on what your favorite book has been so far, if you’d like.

 

 

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